Sonics mangle Memphis, win 3rd straight

SEATTLE - First Rashard Lewis went to a jab-step fallaway jumper that swished. Next, was a half-hook on the block, followed by a baseline spin for a two-handed dunk.

After spending All-Star weekend in Las Vegas as a spectator, Lewis is back to displaying the skill that made him an All-Star candidate before an injury robbed him of 22 games.

Lewis scored 21 of his 34 points in the first half, and the Seattle SuperSonics coasted to their third straight win, 121-105 over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.

Before he was sidelined on Dec. 20 with an injury to his shooting hand, Lewis was averaging a career-high 22 points per game. The injury ended any hopes of a second All-Star appearance for Lewis, but he posted his third straight game with at least 20 points, not surprisingly coinciding with the Sonics' winning streak.

"I'm almost fully back. My shot is still a little short, but I'm just getting that rhythm back," Lewis said.

"The injury slowed me down a lot," Lewis added. "It's going to take some more steps, but it's coming back."

Lewis made 13 of 25 shots, taking advantage of his matchups with either Mike Miller or Rudy Gay, scoring both on the perimeter and in the lane. It was two off his season-high of 36 against Memphis in December.

All five Seattle starters finished in double figures, three of them recording double-doubles. Ray Allen added 27 points, while Luke Ridnour had 15 points and 12 assists. Chris Wilcox scored 13 with 15 rebounds and Nick Collison added 10 and 14 boards.

Asked afterward about the Grizzlies defense on Allen and Lewis, Memphis coach Tony Barone was incredulous.

"C'mon, what kind of question is that ... seriously? The guys got 34 and 27 ... we didn't guard them at all," Barone said. "How did we defend them? We didn't defend them, and that's a pretty simple answer."

Miller led the Grizzlies with 20 points and Gay finished with 19. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Already leading by six at halftime, Seattle sprinted away from the Grizzlies with a 21-8 run midway through the third quarter, building the lead to 18 before Memphis finally stemmed the run.

Allen started the spurt with a crossover that buckled Miller's knees, then finished off the three-point play with a left-handed layup. Wilcox gave Seattle its biggest lead to that point with a lob dunk on the back of Gasol minutes later.

Seattle only added to its advantage. Lewis slammed an alley-oop dunk in transition from Ridnour and by the time Wilcox scored on a tough double-clutch shot in the lane, the Sonics' lead was up to 87-69. Seattle made 10 of 12 shots during the stretch.

Letting the third quarter get away was a problem for the Sonics last year, that re-emerged at times this season. Coach Bob Hill has leaned on Allen to make sure it doesn't become a lasting issue.

"They're aware of it and it's important for us," said Hill, who won his 300th career game. "We're not in a position where we can afford to go out and lose the third quarter by eight, or nine or 10 points."

The Grizzlies appeared to become demoralized as the Sonics' lead increased. Players on the Memphis roster have been widely rumored as on their way out with Thursday's trade deadline approaching. Gasol slouched on the bench for most of the third quarter as the Sonics blew the game open.

"We've got to take the challenge of playing defense," Gasol said. "If we don't want to play defense and stop people, it's going to be hard. We can't just allow guys to have 25-plus points against us."

Memphis made one run in the fourth. Ignited by Gay and Lawrence Roberts, the Grizzlies got within 13. After a Wilcox free-throw, Gasol scored for the first time since the final minute of the first half to pull Memphis to 106-94.

But Ridnour swished an open 3-pointer at the other end and Memphis got no close than 13 in the final five minutes.